Operating systems · Things That Are A Bit Like Other Things

Was Windows popular?

Paul Robert Lloyd writes: “As more services require a Facebook account to use them, I wonder if it’s set to become the next Microsoft Windows; a popular piece of software that becomes the only choice available.”

I first read this as “an unpopular piece of software that becomes the only choice available.”

Plenty of people grumble about Facebook. Windows doesn’t seem to have inspired many people to delight when its manufacturer became the biggest company in the world, as Microsoft did in 1998. To me, it feels as if both are unpopular in an emotive sense, despite their ubiquity—though I feel more confident saying that about Windows than Facebook.

But my perspective is probably horribly slanted. Was Windows popular, in its heyday of the late 90s? Popular, that is, in the sense of being widely loved rather than just widely used?

Perhaps it was. I was in the privileged position at the time of being able to look on Windows from a height as a user of Unix workstations and tedious geek blah, so I would never have appreciated its value as a straightforward way of running a personal computer.

Perhaps there were millions of people given liberation and joy by the friendliness and flexibility of Windows, and by its universal availability as a result of its straightforward, resource-friendly design.

Were there?


2 thoughts on “Was Windows popular?

  1. Hi Chris. ‘Popular’ was possibly a poor choice of words. To clarify, I meant this in terms of the generous marketshare it enjoyed. How it managed to achieve this when (anecdotally) many found it difficult or annoying to use is another question! Thanks for posting the follow-up.

    1. Paul — thanks for the comment. I realised (on second glance) that you had just meant that these things were simply widely-used. I was just interested in interrogating my initial response.

      We’d instinctively say that Windows was generally considered annoying and unsatisfying; I’d just wondered how far that was really historically accurate. It did after all make a lot of new things possible to a lot of people.

      For example it’s long been received wisdom that OS/2 was better than Windows but was squashed by underhand market methods. But my first PC came with OS/2 Warp (I was fairly late to the PC) and, as I remember it, Windows 95 was quite a lot more useful in practice even if I never much enjoyed it.

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